Thursday, 1 March 2012

The Stress-Weight Menace

So why exactly does stress make you stuff yourself silly??

Your body and mind react to all stress in the same way, regardless of whether the stress is physical, emotional or mental. If you are having a stressful day at the office or home, your brain perceives that to be equivalent to being chased by a tiger through the jungles of South East Asia! The brain now instructs the body to release two hormones: adrenaline and cortisol. It is the job of the latter to replace those calories used up as you deftly escaped that tiger or DIDN’T use up as you sat in your office getting a horrible annual review from your boss. So you see, regardless of the stressful situation you get very hungry and stay that way as long as the cortisol continues to flow through you.

If you were indeed in the jungle, you’d reach out for some delicious, healthy, wild berries and replenish your calories that way. But for most of us food loving Indians, the easiest and most tasty options are those delicious fried snacks, mithais, chocolates etc. The euphoria-inducing effects of these high fat and sugary ‘foods’ allows them to quickly become associated with tension reduction in our mind. So we reach out for them every time something feels wrong and they become our comfort foods. And that, of course is very bad if you are trying to stay healthy.

Steps you can take to handle this menace:

  • Do some quick exercises when you feel stressed. This helps to flush the cortisol out of the system, curtailing hunger while relieving stress.

  • Meditate: this reduces stress, helps you to be more mindful of food choices. With practice, one maybe able to pay better attention to the impulse to grab a fat and sugar loaded comfort food and inhibit the impulse.

  • Don’t be so strict when it comes to dieting: strict dieting causes decrease in blood sugar which the body perceives as stressful. This causes cortisol increase making you ravenous and your self control goes out of the window.

  • Visit or call a friend: social support seems to have a buffering effect on stress.

  • Get enough shut-eye: the body perceives loss of sleep as a major source of stress which results in increased appetite and weight gain.

  • Avoid boredom: it attracts unwanted eating. Identify a hobby to indulge in order to distract the mind.

So, please take charge of yourself and your health. You are your best doctor!!

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